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For decades, the Montessori Method has 'philosophically competed' with faith-based, home-based, private elite, and public kindergarten schools by using a different model: teaching children via an individualized methodology and respecting their abilities to complete a task before moving on to another.
And, now, boom, Dr. Maria Montessori's teaching has gone mainstream! But, like a knock-off designer handbag, it's not the real thing--it's something else.
"People are copying Montessori teaching tactics and borrowing parts of it, but a la carte parts don't make a complete education," says Kristin Edwards, M.Ed., Director of Lifetime Montessori School in Santaluz, a San Diego suburb.
"Oscar Wilde was right…imitation is flattering," Edwards continues. "But, what we're seeing is a hybrid mishmash of our Montessori methods and that is concerning. From teaching concepts to age-based tools, we're being besieged by 'counterfeits.' Today's parents must know now--it's either Montessori or it's not."
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Activity and Product Hybrids
Recently, parents have been asking us about specific activities and products now available on the marketplace and their true Montessori heritage.
Here are some of those components:
• Floor beds—a Montessori classroom is built for young, small people—close to the ground and everything at kids' eye level; one logical outgrowth has been the creation of the child's bedroom to match the classroom…a minimalist room with a floor bed and shelves and drawers at eye level.
• Educational wall posters—please, no…instead, artwork hung low near the ground is a stronger approach. Most Montessori schools leave walls blank! Actual objects one can touch, feel and smell during lesson time works well in teaching skills and ideas.
• Laptops and electronic devices—the use of technology does not make a school modern; rather, it's the ideas and principles the school embodies. Montessori asks: What do we want our children to become…button pushers who use technology but don't understand it or logical thinkers who ultimately will?
• Alphabet and numerical toys for toddlers (18 months to 3 years)—just because a label says a toy has 'Montessori educational value' doesn't mean it's so—that's just to boost sales! Toddlers do not need alphabet letters or numbers placed on their toys. Instead, they need to develop and refine their motor skills.
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In Montessori, reading starts at three years of age and uses tactile 'sandpaper' letters, sand trays and a moveable alphabet in group settings. And, Montessori mathematics begins at four.
There are other Monte-Something—not genuine Montessori—tactics, and toys out there. The point of our spear is this: the Montessori Method is based on exploring a child's mind by observing him or her. It's about exercising free choice, working at your own speed, learning via age-range classes and doing so in a non-anxiety provoking, non-judgmental and non-competitive environment taught by educated, experienced and worldly, nurturing teachers. It's a process and it takes several years to achieve.
"I hope parents will read this article and then visit a Montessori school to observe the differences of our teaching philosophy," Edwards says. "Only a Montessori school can teach the whole child in a systematic and methodical way. Teaching or modifying bits and pieces of it is like eating appetizers and dessert and skipping the entrée. Join us in making a complete Montessori education that will benefit your child from going forward."
To schedule a tour, visit www.LifetimeMontessoriSchool.com/Free-Tours.
DMNP Robert Gavin
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